Blog: Homes: Let’s raise the debate
A second Scottish Parliament debate on housing in the space of 3 months shows just how much housing is working its way up the political agenda.
And so it should. At Shelter Scotland we’ve been highlighting the different facets of the housing crisis in our policy and campaigning work for years. Whether you’re part of the 60 per cent of households in Scotland who own and live in their own home, the 24 per cent of households who live in social rented housing or the 14 per cent of households who call the growing private rented sector (PRS) home, the housing crisis is affecting each and every one of us and it’s high time that our politicians sat up and took notice.
That is why we were delighted that the Scottish Government proposed this debate with a motion focusing on an ‘ambitious housebuilding programme for Scotland’. With 150,000 households currently on council house waiting lists, 10,666 homeless households in temporary accommodation and 4,896 homeless children – the need for more, better quality, affordable homes has never been more urgent.
In June of this year, the independent Commission on Housing and Wellbeing found that: “although many households in Scotland live in satisfactory housing…there is very clearly a homes crisis”. The Commission recommended that 23,000 new houses – across all tenures – need to be built each year between now and 2020. Following that, independent research commission by Shelter Scotland, CIH Scotland and the SFHA and published in October 2015 looked at the specific level of need for affordable homes across Scotland. This research found that at least 12,000 affordable homes need to be built each year during the next parliament, of which the majority need to be socially-rented to meet backlog and arising need.
This would not end the crisis, but it would be a bold step-change in delivery and would start to address the historic backlog and meet the future needs of our population. In less techy terms – this would help make sure everyone in Scotland has a home. A safe, secure, affordable home is a basic human right and the fact that so many people across Scotland are struggling to find or keep a home is having a very real human and financial cost across the country.
This crisis has been a long-time coming. We have not been building enough homes for years: general housebuilding is currently at its lowest level since 1947. The recession has restricted funding options and strained delivery, but we are facing a decades-long backlog and with a growing, ageing population. We want to see party politics left at the door and long-term commitment to homes from all our politicians.
That is why we are urging all parties to be bold and ambitious on housing. We recently welcomed the commitment from the SNP to deliver 50,000 affordable homes pending the outcome of the 2016 Holyrood elections. We would urge all parties to make sure that housing is at the heart of their manifestos and at the heart of politics for the next 5 years. Housing is pivotal to delivering social justice and to achieving nearly all national policy outcomes including on health, education and criminal justice. Critically, we cannot begin to address the staggering inequalities in our society unless we address housing inequality. Child poverty, fuel poverty, opportunity inequality and health inequalities cannot and will not be meaningfully addressed unless housing is at the core of our approach.
So we welcomed last week’s debate and we listened with interest. Vital issues were raised from all parts of the chamber – how, where and what we build, funding, issues with planning regulations, land-banking, community developments, PRS reform, tenants’ rights, energy efficient homes…..the list goes on and it’s encouraging to see such important issues being debated at parliament.
Now the issues are on the table, what Shelter Scotland wants to see is a real cross-party political commitment to housing, looking at long-term all-tenure housing solutions in the round.
- Fiona King is campaigns & public affairs manager at Shelter Scotland